For whatever reasons may be personally affecting you, there may come a point in time where you do not have a standard oven in your kitchen.
Rather than an oven and stove top combined into one appliance, some people may have a separate appliance that acts the same as a stovetop and a smaller oven, known as a toaster oven. Toaster ovens can be a wonderful way to save on space in the kitchen, but there are a lot of drawbacks to them.
At its core, the main difference between toaster ovens and standard ovens is the size. A standard oven with a stovetop attachment is about as large as a standard kitchen countertop block, as it is meant to fit within the rest of your kitchen.
They are heavy appliances that may even need more than one mover and require a specialist installation to ensure that everything is drawing power from where it should.
By comparison, toaster ovens are about the size of a microwave and can sit on your countertop provided that the surface can withstand some of the radiant heat that will come from it.
Toaster ovens can generally be plugged into an outlet on your wall without any specialist assistance as well, as they are usually designed to be somewhat portable. (They do not require additional assistance in moving, but they are not light.)
This comes as a problem when it comes to temperatures. Toaster ovens provide the same base function as your standard oven will. They will both heat up to a range of 300 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and will remain at that temperature for a fair amount of time to cook the food that you have placed in the oven.
Ovens, being much larger than a microwave, may take a fair amount of time to properly preheat. Toaster ovens will heat up quickly, intensely, and will often cook much faster than an oven will due to the difference in heating technique.
This means that although both appliances provide the same function of “heating up what is inside,” you will have to be mindful of what you are doing if you are using a toaster oven.
If you try to follow a conventional oven’s cooking instructions with a toaster oven, you are going to end up with ash.
This, then, begs the question of whether or not toaster ovens can bake. Baking is often a slow and very delicate process, as you are playing with science and trying to get the dough or batter of what you are baking to have a specific reaction to the heat to reach a desired texture.
Most baking guides will have sections that detail how you can tell if your baked goods baked too fast and don’t have the right texture, were too close to a heating source, and so on. With baking being such a delicate science, can the fast and brutal method of how toaster ovens work really be achieved?
The short answer to this is that yes, you can bake cakes in a toaster oven with some effort. The long answer is that it depends heavily on a number of factors, and it may take several attempts of trial and error before you are really able to determine if your toaster oven can bake in the first place.
Varieties Between Toaster Ovens
If you want to have a good understanding of all the factors that go into whether or not you can successfully bake a cake with the use of a toaster oven, you will want to understand some of the core aspects of toaster ovens and the varieties even between toaster ovens.
For example, smaller toaster ovens will always heat up faster than anything larger than it, even another toaster oven. This also means that they have a tendency to bake faster as well, and it can be hard to adjust for this at first.
For the most part, modern toaster ovens will be able to fit a traditional 9-inch cake pan. Some older or specifically smaller variants may only be able to handle a cake pan that is eight inches or an 8- by 10-inch cake pan.
This also means that you will have to adjust your recipe and cooking times accordingly.
You will also need to find “hot spots” inside of your toaster oven. Because of the way that toaster ovens work, there are certain areas within the oven that are going to get hotter than others because they are closer to the heating coils that make the whole thing warm.
These are known as hot spots. While they may not mean much when you are heating up something, for a practice as delicate as baking, it absolutely matters.
This means that you are going to have to spend some time finding the hot spots in your toaster oven so that you can position the cake pan around those hot spots as best you can. If you have a toaster oven that can barely fit a 9-inch cake pan, there isn’t much adjusting to be done.
Even so, it is still important to know about them so that you can do what you can about them when you are ready to bake. Thankfully, finding a toaster oven’s hot spots is pretty easy.
The general way that people will do this is by beginning to heat the toaster oven to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit and letting it preheat for around 10 minutes.
You will then want to open the oven and place an oven thermometer on the rack of the toaster oven, close the door, and then wait about five more minutes to make up for the lost heat. The thermometer will tell you what the actual temperature of the oven is, as most toaster ovens will “run hot,” so to speak.
From here, you will then want to fill the oven pan with breadcrumbs, oatmeal, or something of a similar material in a thin layer. You will want to put that pan back into the oven while it is hot and watch them cook.
You won’t need long to see which areas of the pan’s filling are cooking faster than others, and when you take the tray out, you should be able to point out certain spots on it that are darker than others. These are going to be your hot spots.
When baking, you may have to turn the cake pan at least half a rotation while cooking to allow for it to cook evenly and avoid those hot spots. You will also have to adjust your cooking time to make up for the lost heat while doing so.
If you are making a cake that is so delicate that opening the oven too much will affect its texture, then baking it in a toaster oven is not going to be the best idea.
For the most part, these are all the variances between toaster ovens that you will need to be mindful of. An afternoon of quick testing to see which areas of the oven cook the hottest and mindfulness about not baking large or tall cakes will go a long way when learning how to bake with a toaster oven.
However, if you are diligent about it, you can absolutely get your favorite cakes baked, even if all you have is a toaster oven.
Being Careful of the Cakes
Cakes, for the most part, are forgiving in terms of baked goods. Of course, if you are even a little bit off in your measurements, the taste and texture will not be what it should be, but it will still closely resemble a cake.
This leniency also extends to baking as well, and is what allows for something that needs to be baked to be able to withstand the generally harsh environment of a toaster oven.
With that being said, there are a few things you will need to be particularly mindful of when you are baking cakes in a toaster oven.
For example, you will have to bake layered cakes layer by layer, and depending on what you are planning to do for the frosting, this can become problematic if they cool down too fast. If all you have is a toaster oven, you will need to consider what cakes you can bake in it and what you can’t bake.
Additionally, consider that chocolate cakes have a tendency to scorch already, and the cooking environment of a toaster oven can easily scorch a standard yellow cake. This means you will have to take some precautions to ensure that you scorch your cake as minimally as possible.
For chocolate cakes and most other ingredients that are quick to brown, you can get away with reducing the temperature of the oven by about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, as a rule of thumb.
What Other Ovens Can You Bake Cakes in?
Considering that cakes, in comparison to other baked goods, are lenient, they may be able to handle other baking environments if they can handle toaster ovens.
Of course, at the end of the day, the best place to bake a cake is going to be in a conventional, standard oven as this is the most easily accessible and the easiest type of oven to work with. However, there are other ovens out there in which you can bake a cake or two.
There are convectional ovens that you can work with, and although the name is quite similar to conventional oven, they work a bit differently. A convection oven, as the name might suggest, is an oven that uses a convectional current to cook with, and the convectional current is created by using a fan at the back of the oven.
This fan will blow the heat that is generated at the top of the oven at the baking elements toward and around the cavity of the oven to heat it up, rather than using radiant heating that conventional ovens do.
Convectional ovens can either be gas or electric and are not as common as conventional ovens. They are also strikingly similar to fan ovens.
Fan ovens, as the name suggests is an oven that relies primarily on the fan for spreading the heat around. The heating element will be located around the fan this time, directly blowing the heated air around the cavity.
In a sense, fan ovens can be considered as upgraded versions of your standard convectional ovens. The fan and heating element are a third heat source, and will help drastically with baking times and how evenly the food is baked, and they are always electric.
So, which one is going to be the best for cakes? For the typical home baker, sticking with your original conventional oven is going to be the best.
Conventional ovens work well for baking cakes and as long as you are mindful to keep everything centered and you pay attention to cooking times, you won’t run into any issues with how well-baked the cake is. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the hassle of installing a new oven if you are working with your current conventional one.
For commercial bakeries, fan and convectional ovens are considered to be better. They offer more flexibility in how you can bake a cake depending on what the cake needs and they have a reputation for cooking more quickly and more evenly than conventional ovens.
Thankfully, they do not cook as fast as toaster ovens, so there isn’t any danger of you having to worry about a burnt cake with these either. Typically, these are going to be more expensive, bulkier, and harder to maintain than a standard conventional oven, which is why these ovens are only recommended for commercial bakeries that have profits to offset those financial cons.
At the end of the day, just about all ovens can bake a cake. Can all ovens bake a cake well? Considering that toaster ovens fall into this mix, the answer to that would be “no.”
Toaster ovens can function if you are looking to bake a cake and all you have is a toaster oven, but they are at the bottom of the list for preferences when baking a cake. If you can help it, sticking to conventional and convectional ovens is going to be your best bet.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.